The Northern Illinois wrestling team won two duals, but lost their Mid-American Conference opener Wednesday at the NIU Quad Meet.
The Huskies came away with convincing wins against Cleveland State and Cumberland, while losing to MAC preseason favorite and No. 22 Kent State. As a result of the 2-1 performance, the Huskies improved their record to 5-4 at the season’s midpoint.
Huskies fall 29-6 to Kent State in MAC opener
NIU opened the day with a tough loss in their MAC opener, losing to the nationally-ranked Golden Flashes, 29-6. Rob Jillard and Brad Dieckhaus both came away with wins, but KSU’s strong lineup was too much for the Huskies.
“Where we won our matches, our guys came out and set the tone of the match,” said NIU head coach Ryan Ludwig. “When we lost our matches, we came out and let Kent State set the tone. That’s the bottom line.”
Following Nick Smith’s 13-5 major decision loss to No. 4 Nic Bedelyon, Jillard earned a key victory at 133 with a 6-4 decision against Steve Mitcheff to get NIU within one point on the scoreboard. However, the Golden Flashes would rattle off five straight victories – including a pin at 149 and a major decision at 157 – to take control of the match.
Dieckhaus, though, stemmed the tide with a 7-4 victory over KSU’s Casey Newburg in a rematch of last year’s 184-pound MAC title match. Yet, the Golden Flashes scored a pair of decisions in the final two matches to earn the conference win.
Huskies defeat Cumberland, 36-9
The Huskies rebounded from a tough loss with a convincing 36-9 victory against the Cumberland Bulldogs despite resting numerous starters.
“Those guys work just as hard as the starters do,” Ludwig said. “We feel that a lot of guys who wrestled in that match are the future of our program. We’re excited to see them compete and it’s great to get them some time.”
After conceding the 125-pound match to CU, the Huskies struck back with Rob Jillard’s 14-0 major decision against Ethyn Holbrook at 133 and Shawn Fayette’s 12-0 win over Matt Scheve to take a 8-6 lead.
Yet, Cumberland would retake the lead after Michael Gonzalez topped Tyler Argue, 7-6, courtesy of a riding time advantage at 149 for a 9-8 advantage. The Huskies would take control of the dual when Sam Bennett took a 9-1 major decision against Jake Shirley at 157 and Matt Mougin outdueled Zeke Hunt, 3-0, at 165.
The win was sealed when Caleb Busson pinned Scott Stewart at 174, Brad Dieckhaus defeated Cody Linton and Jared Torrence pinned Joe Hill.
Huskies shut out Cleveland State
NIU closed out the day with a historic victory against Cleveland State, shutting out the Vikings, 38-0.
The win was not only the Huskies’ fifth on the year, but it was the first time that an NIU team shut out a Division I opponent since Jan. 29, 2010, when they swept SIU-Edwardsville, 42-0. Prior to that, the last Huskie shutout came on Jan. 26, 1994 with a 51-0 win against Chicago State.
“What I am proud of is that our guys responded the right way,” Ludwig said. “Where we made mistakes against Kent State…we set the tone in those matches. We came out on our toes and on the attack. When we wrestle like that, we are a much better team.”
Nick Smith set the tone to the match when he scored a 12-1 major decision against Ben Willeford to give the Huskies a 4-0 lead. Rob Jillard, though, would need extra time at 133 to extend that lead. Trailing 5-3 midway through the second period, the sophomore battled back to get the match tied at six at the end of regulation. The Huskie grappler clinched the match when he registered a takedown mere seconds into the extra session.
Kevin Fanta took the drama out of the dual at 141 when he pinned Josh Palivoda less than two minutes into the match for a 13-0 lead. After Matt Smith and Tyler Loethen won at 149 and 157, respectively, the Huskies effectively put the match out of reach when Matt Mougin pinned Koort Leyrer in the first period to give NIU a 25-0 lead.
The Huskies would coast to victory with decisions by Caleb Busson at 174 (6-3 over Aric Thurn), Mike Lukowski at 197 (8-4 over Nick Anthony) and Jared Torrence at 285 (5-1 over Garry Yarborough), along with Brad Dieckhaus’ 14-2 major decision against Corbin Boone at 184.